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China Mobile in dispute with couple over auspicious number

A couple failed to pay their phone bill by a dollar, and now have to pay thousands of dollars in order to get back their "lucky number" which the telco has taken back.
Written by Liu Jiayi, Contributor

A Chinese couple are fighting a "David and Goliath" battle against China Mobile, the country's biggest carrier, over an auspicious number that they had been using for 12 years.

Last month, because their phone bill was overdue by 7 yuan (US$1.12 USD), China Mobile suspended the connection without informing them and took back their number that ends with "888", which symbolizes wealth and prosperity in China.
According to the subscriber's wife Chang Lin, they eventually paid the bill and penalty fee, but were later told they could not use the lucky number anymore and the number had been “taken back” because it was of "primary national resources".
"If you want to get the number back," the customer service staff told Chang. "Pre-charge 14,000 yuan (US$2,246) worth of credit, and promise to pay 400 yuan (US$64) for the phone bill every month."
After months of asserting their rights on Weibo--the Chinese version of Twitter, the case went viral and finally got the company’s attention. China Mobile’s Shanghai branch sent a private message to Chang saying that it would attend to the matter as soon as possible.

The customer service also said in an interview with a Chinese website that what China Mobile did was in accordance with its internal regulations and did not infringe on the rights of the customer. But according to Chang, no one had informed her about those regulations on taking back the overdue phone numbers and protested "why would I pay so much for something that already belongs to me".

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